Lame Claim no. 5:

Badgers have spread bTB across the country.

Given that badgers don’t generally travel by bus or lorry, and rarely cover long distances on foot, the widespread and frequent movement of cattle provides a much more convincing explanation for the spread of bTB in the UK. The map below shows the pattern over a 20-year period. The spread across the country mirrors exactly the increase in intensive farming. Just like humans, cattle under stress become sick, and crowded conditions make the spread of a disease common place.


The bTB skin test is simply not good enough and infected cattle continue to live and infect from within the herd. Intensive farming makes the condition right for bTB to spread easily. The problem of bTB lies mainly within intensive farming. The M.bovis bacterium, which is the causative agent of the disease, can remain latent and undetected for many years; just recently, a cow from a closed herd was found to be riddled with bTB at the time of slaughter, and had clearly been infected for a long time. A routine skin test on the animal had not identified the infection in the previous five years so she had continued to infect others throughout that time (13).

In Switzerland, the first outbreak in 40 years saw the entire herd slaughtered. It was shown that many of the cattle had been infected with bTB for several years showing that cattle had been infected yet undetected (46).

The cattle restocked after the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 did not require bTB testing. That was a mistake that undoubtedly added hugely to the resurgence in bovine TB cases.

In the 1970s, an outbreak of bTB in North West England was eliminated by the slaughter of cattle and restrictions to their movements (sound familiar?!). Had the disease been maintained by badgers, the problem could not have been solved without their removal. Badgers were not targeted, yet the area was soon declared free of infection.

Research from Durham University released in 2013 has confirmed that badgers are not major players in the transfer of bTB. Professor Peter Atkins of Durham University stated: “It is very probable that other animals did and do, carry TB, including badgers and deer, but the cattle-to-cattle transfer is likely also to be an important factor. For example, only one out of nearly 400 badgers killed in road accidents in Cheshire over two decades tested for the disease turned out to be positive. This goes against received wisdom that bTB would have stayed in badgers which obviously weren’t culled when the cattle were in previous decades, and they then reinfected cattle stocks. But this interspecies transference seems unlikely to have occurred on the necessary scale.”

“Furthermore, no one has yet proved definitively which direction the infection travels between species. The Randomised Badger Culling Trial, which ran from 1998 to 2006, indicated complex, interwoven patterns of infection, and concluded badger culling was unlikely to be effective for the future control of bTB” (21).

Prof. Atkins believes that bTB in badgers is a spill-over disease from cattle, rather than an endemic condition, and probably does not persist over lengthy periods. He contends that a cull could even exacerbate the problem (22). Prof. Atkins has also said: “Bovine tuberculosis was completely eliminated from Cheshire, and from the northwestern counties which do have badger populations. That elimination took place in the 1950s. And what you’d expect according to the traditional badger ecology is that bovine tuberculosis would have stayed in the badgers – which obviously weren’t culled at that time – if there is an association between the two species, but the road traffic accident data shows that that wasn’t the case; in fact only one animal out of I think it’s 400 that were collected over two decades in Cheshire was infected with the disease, which doesn’t suggest it was endemic in that particular county.”

He continued: “Farms needed to re-stock after foot-and-mouth with fresh animals, and very often they bought those animals from the southwest, which is a traditional cattle breeding area; so in County Durham, for instance, where quite a lot of cattle were slaughtered as a result of foot-and-mouth disease, cattle were brought in and it’s been shown that actually on several occasions, those cattle brought bovine tuberculosis with them into areas which previously hadn’t had it, so this was rather ironic. Almost certainly a proportion of the increase in bovine tuberculosis after 2001 is the result of that restocking after foot-and-mouth disease. I think that the ecology of the assumption that badgers are always responsible for the cattle disease has got to be reviewed.”

Our biosecurity is extremely poor. In 2011, the European Commission considered our biosecurity practices in farming so dismal that it threatened to withdraw the £32-million annual funding (12) to combat bTB. That move saw Jim Pace (the then minister) hot footing it to Brussels to plead our case. He promised more rigorous biosecurity in return for the funding, but very little has changed.

These maps show the density of farms and cattle in 2008. It’s clear from the distribution patterns that the areas of the UK in which farming is most intensive correspond to those where bTB is particularly widespread.


Badgers are widespread throughout the UK as the map clearly shows, yet bTB only appears an issue in areas of intensive farming.

Defra and the NFU currently offers this non-mandatory advice to farmers: “Cleansing and disinfection (C&D) is an important disease control measure and may help reduce the risk of infection spreading to other cattle or to other susceptible animals on your farm. Under certain conditions, M. bovis can survive in the environment for a long time, so it is good practice, and will be a requirement under notice, served by Animal Health, to cleanse and disinfect thoroughly all buildings where reactor cattle have been kept. It is particularly important to clean and disinfect any fittings or equipment that may have come into contact with sputum, faeces or milk from TB reactors.” (73)

It is not illegal to spread slurry from cattle that are under movement restrictions on a farmer’s own land. Defra tells farmers that they, “should consider the risk of spreading the disease to other stock or wildlife”. This means that slurry containing bTB bacterium is a vector for spreading the disease not only to badgers but other cattle. M. bovis is expected to persist in slurry-treated soil for up to two years (74) & (75).

Research from Northern Ireland has suggested that excrement could aerosolise (i.e become dust particles) that could be breathed in by animals and further facilitate bTB spread (76). Slurry can also run off into waterways – and the bTB bacterium can remain active in water for up to 58 days (73) – meaning that cross contamination to neighbouring herds and wildlife could be a potential vector.

I think the picture is clear - Cattle cause the major spread of bTB. Intensive farming means intensive bTB.



1. Bovine TB Time Line. Bovine TB Overview and Timeline 

2. Randomised Badger Culling Trial. Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) on Cattle TB.  rbct 

3. Estimates of badger population sizes in the West Gloucestershire and West Somerset pilot areas. A report to Natural England - 22 February 2013. 

4. Estimating the risk of cattle exposure to tuberculosis posed by wild deer relative to badgers in England and Wales. DOCUMENT  HERE 

5.Statement from the European Commission regarding an article in the Mail On Sunday on 21 October. There is no EU financial support provided for the culling of badgers. 

The European Commission was disappointed to see an article by Brian May in the Mail on Sunday on 21 October which quotes Georg Haeusler, chief adviser to the European Commissioner for Agriculture. Some of the quotes are out of context or inaccurate - and therefore misleading.

Vaccination of cattle against TB is forbidden under current EU rules agreed by all Member States, including the UK. This is because there is no effective test to tell the difference between vaccinated and infected animals, making it impossible to protect the food chain and identify which animals could be exported.

If such a test were to be developed and approved at EU and international levels – which would take time – the rules could be changed relatively quickly.   But  Mr Haeusler explained that this would be the responsibility of the Health Commissioner, who deals with vaccination issues, and who could also advise on the exact process and timing in this case.   

The Commission provides substantial financial support to the approved UK bovine TB eradication programme. For 2012, EUR 31.2 million were allocated to implement a rapid eradication strategy. There is no EU financial support provided for the culling of badgers.

6.Parliamentary briefing paper - Science & Environment.

7. The Cattle Book 2008 Descriptive statistics of cattle numbers in Great Britain on 1 June 2008: Density Maps. 

8. European Commission Audit - audit was carried out in the UK from 5-16th September 2011. TB Eradication Programme.  READ HERE 

9. Vaccination reduces the risk of unvaccinated badger cubs testing tuberculosis positive.Vaccination reduces the risk of unvaccinated badger cubs testing tuberculosis positive

10. Conversation in the House of Lords where Lord Krebs and Lord Knight of Weymouth – Hansard. 

11. 'Bovine tuberculosis infection in wild mammals in the South-West region of England: A survey of prevalence and a semi-quantitative assessment of the relative risks to cattle'. READ HERE 

12. Final report of an audit carried out in the United Kingdom from 5th-16th September 2011 In order to evaluate the operation of the Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Programme. READ HERE 

13. TB skin test questioned after false results. 

14. Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Bovine TB - Key conclusions from the meeting of scientific experts. Held at Defra on 4th April 2011.

15. Illegal in the US to feed deer and cattle together for risk of bovine Tb transfer.  READ MORE  

16. Scientist writes an open letter condemning the cull. 

17. Despite no badgers having yet being killed under official sanction in Northern Ireland, as Ms O'Neill has acknowledged, the annual herd incidence has almost halved, from nearly 10% in 2002 to just over 5% on 30 September 2011.

18. Cattle movements the most significant factor in spread of bovine TB.

19. Stress prevents immune systems from working. A 3rd more females (in buffalo adult females stressed out the yearling females) and links with human stats.

20. Bovine tuberculosis in Europe from the perspective of an officially tuberculosis free country: trade, surveillance and diagnostics.

21. Durham University Paper.  READ HERE 

22. Recording of Professor Atkins from Durham University 

23. Police don’t want to police this, too expensive. 

24. Herd size is a known risk factor for bTB (Denny and Wilesmith 1999, Olea-Popelka and others 2004, Reilly and Courtenay 2007); accordingly, direct standardisation was used to adjust for varying herd size (Dohoo et al., 2003). (Abernethy et al., 2013)
25. Slaughter Detection and pre movement Testing in Oreland. 

26.Four Area Project. 

27. Where is this? 

28 . History of bTB – Defra.


30. Incidents of M. bovis infection in non-bovine domestic animals & wild deer in GB confirmed by laboratory culture. 

31. Lord Krebs, who ran a ten-year review into whether culling could control bovine tuberculosis, said that the Government’s estimates had varied so wildly that under the previous target farmers would have been asked to shoot 144 per cent of the badgers in Gloucestershire. He said “To me what it says is that the practicality of killing 70 per cent is one question but the real question is how do they know what their starting number is?”

32. Professor Robbie McDonald, an author of the paper and now at the University of Exeter's Environment and Sustainability Institute, said: "This striking result in cubs shows a protective effect at the social group level and is important evidence that vaccination not only has a direct benefit to vaccinated badgers, but can also reduce the infectivity of TB within a badger social group that has been vaccinated."

33. World Health Organisation description of TB and how it is transmitted.

34. Neigbouring farms have different bTB.

35. End ban on hunting with dogs, urges Tory Environment Minister: Paterson makes his views clear on controversial subject.

36. In Wales the government have caged, trapped and vaccinated over 1,400 badgers. Evidence from a four year field study (9) shows that BCG vaccinations in badgers reduces the risk of infection to cubs. It is possible to vaccinate. It will not make matters worse and evidence to date suggest it has a positive effect. Myself and Brian May met with Christianne Glossop (Chief Vet of Wales) in London last month to discuss successes and failures of the vaccination program and how we may work with them on this project to improve and support it to its conclusion.

37. Defra graphs on bTB showing increase after foot and mouth

38. Conservative Animal Welfare - Statement on bTB.

40. Deep divisions in the badger cull.


42. British cattle are moved annually; with over 13 million cattle movements. 

43. Closely mirroring the historical rise in bTB cases is the rise in cattle movements, with 480,294 more cattle moved in 2010 than 2009 Cattle movements have more than quadrupled between 1999 (3,373,646) and 2010 (13,690,294) and have involved over 127million animals since 1998.**Statistics**2010%20Statistics**?OpenDocument 

44. Oral vaccine Eamonn Gormley. 

45. Details on Eamonn Gormley. 

46. Swiss herd shown that BTB was endemic in herd and had been present for several years. 

47. Byrne, A. W., Sleeman, D. P., O’Keeffe, J. & John, D., (2012a). The Ecology of the European Badger (Meles meles) in Ireland, a review. Biology and Environment: Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 112B(1), pp. 105-132.

48. Man shot while hunting rabbits . Fell on his gun SHROPSHIRE. 

49. Byrne, A. W. et al., (2012b). Impact of culling on relative abundance of the European badger (Meles meles) in Ireland. European Journal of Wildlife Research, pp. DOI 10.1007/s10344-012-0643-1.

50. More, S. J., (2005). Towards eradication of Bovine Tuberculosis in Ireland A critical review of progress, Dublin: Centre for Veterinary Epidemiology and Risk Analysis.

51. Griffin, J. M. et al., (2005). The impact of badger removal on the control of tuberculosis in cattle herds in Ireland. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, Volume 67, pp. 237-266.

52. Máirtín, D. Ó. et al., (1998). The effect of a badger removal programme on the incidence of tuberculosis in an Irish cattle population. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 34(1-6), pp. 47-56.

53. Sleeman, D.P., Davenport, J., More, S.J., Clegg, T.A., Collins, J.D., Martin, S.W., Williams, D.H., Griffin, J.M. and O’Boyle, I. (2009c). How many Eurasian Badgers (Meles meles) are there in the Republic of Ireland? European Journal of Wildlife Research 55, 333-44.

54. Eves, J.A., (1999). Impact of badger removal on bovine tuberculosis in east county Offaly. Irish Veterinary Journal 52, 199–203.

55. Eves, J.A., (1993). The East Offaly Badger Research project: an interim report. The Badger Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin (1993), pp. 166–173 
56. Cheeseman, C. L., Jones, G. W., Gallagher, J. & Mallinson, P. J. (1981). The population structure, density and prevalence of tuberculosis (Mycobacterium bovis) in badgers (Meles meles) from four areas in south-west England. J. Appl. Ecol. 18, 795–804.

57. Cheeseman, C. L., Mallinson, P. J., Ryan, J. & Wilesmith, J. W. (1993). Recolonisation by badgers in Gloucestershire. In The badger (ed. T. J. Hayden), pp. 78–93. Dublin, Ireland: Royal Irish Academy.

58. Tuyttens, F. A. M., Delahay, R. J., Macdonald, D. W., Cheeseman, C. L., Long, B. & Donnelly, C. A. (2000a). Spatial perturbation caused by a badger (Meles meles) culling operation: implications for the function of territoriality and the control of bovine tuberculosis Mycobacterium bovis. J. Anim. Ecol. 69, 815–828.

59. Tuyttens, F. A. M., Macdonald, D. W., Rogers, L. M., Cheeseman, C. L. & Roddam, A. W. (2000b). Comparative study on the consequences of culling badgers (Meles meles) on biometrics, population dynamics and movement. J. Anim. Ecol. 69, 567–580.

60. Macdonald, D. W., Riordan, P. & Mathews, F. (2006). Biological hurdles to the control of TB in cattle: a test of two hypotheses concerning wildlife to explain the failure of control. Biol. Conserv. 131, 268–286.

61. O'Corry Crowe, G., Hammond, R., Eves, J. & Hayden, T. J., (1996). The Effect of Reduction in Badger Density on the Spatial Organisation and Activity of Badgers (Meles meles) in Relation to Farms in Central Ireland. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy , 96(3), pp. 147-158.

62. Bourne, F. J. et al., (2007). TB policy and the ISG's findings. Veterinary Record , 161(18), pp. 633-635.

63. Donnelly, C.A., Woodroffe, R., Cox, D.R., Bourne, J., Gettinby, G., Le Fevre, A.M., Mclnerney, J.P., Morrison, W.I., (2003). Impact of localized badger culling on tuberculosis incidence in British cattle. Nature 426, 834– 837.

64. Woodroffe, R. et al., (2006). Effects of Culling on Badger Meles meles Spatial Organization: Implications for the Control of Bovine Tuberculosis. Journal of Applied Ecology, 43(1), pp. 1-10.

65. Sleeman, D. P. et al., (2009a). The effectiveness of barriers to badger (Meles meles) immigration in the Irish Four Area project. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 55(3), pp. 267-278.

66. Roper, T. J., (2010). Badger. 1st ed. London : Harper Collins.

67. Byrne, A. W. et al., (2012c). Population Estimation and Trappability of the European Badger (Meles meles) Implications for Tuberculosis Management. Plos One, 7(12), pp. 1-11.

68. Munoz–Igualada J, Shivik JA, Domınguez FG, Lara J, Gonzalez LM (2008). Evaluation of cage–traps and cable restraint devices to capture red foxes in Spain. J Wildl Manage 72: 830–836.

69. O’Flaherty, J., (2008). Value for Money and Policy Review Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Programme. 1996–2006. Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food,

70. Farming after foot and Mouth. 

71. 81%of the population are against the proposed culling of Badgers (Bow Group research 2012).

72. The Citizen newspaper poll found 90.2% were against the cull (4 Oct 2012).

73. Control of Bovine (bTB ) Cattle Biosecurity - Part 5 NFU Southwest 

74. BTB remains in slurry for up to two years. M. bovis is expected to persist in slurry-treated soil for up to two years

75. M. bovis is expected to persist in slurry-treated soil for up to two years.

76. Bovine TB : a review of badger to cattle transmission. 

77. 22% of new bTB cattle detected at slaughter.

78. TB Vaccination of Badgers

79. The use of dogs and Defra.

80 .Cattle bTB and ferrets, 4 out of 80 foxes had btB.

81. Paul R. Torgerson and David J. Torgerson stated in their paper ‘Public health and bovine tuberculosis: what’s all the fuss about?' READ HERE